ANN ARBOR, MI – Late last Friday afternoon (Eastern Standard Time), after three hours of deliberation, the military Board of Inquiry ruled LtCol Chessani was not guilty of misconduct and should not be demoted.
Nevertheless, the Board’s ruling produced a mixed result. It ruled Chessani must now retire because he displayed “substandard performance” by failing to conduct a more detailed investigation of the civilians killed as a result of the house clearing actions of four Marines after they were ambushed in Haditha, Iraq on November 19, 2005.
The Board’s decision came after a 1½ hour impassioned closing argument on behalf of LtCol Chessani made by Thomas More Law Center attorney Robert Muise. Muise argued Chessani was a scapegoat to appease the anti-war media and anti-war politician John Murtha. “Here’s your scapegoat. Here’s your fall guy,” said Muise as he pointed at Chessani, who sat silently at the defense table.
There's no longer any arguing that Murtha put political motivations ahead of his consideration of the Haditha Marines. He didn't get a single fact straight in making these accusations, as I've proved with this timeline. He didn't wait for the investigation to be completed. He lied about where he got his information from.
“It’s much worse than was reported in Time magazine,” Murtha, a Democrat, former Marine colonel and Vietnam war veteran, told reporters on Capitol Hill. “There was no firefight. There was no [bomb] that killed those innocent people,” Murtha explained, adding there were “about twice as many” Iraqis killed than Time had reported.
The battalion S2 officer made a full and complete report based on his monitoring of the day’s events and the intelligence he and others had amassed then and previous days. As we wrote at the time, the PowerPoint after-action report he sent up the command ladder proved to all the higher officers that the incident warranted no further investigation.
To review, here's what Rep. Murtha said when first questioned where he got his information from:
Asked about his sources during a midday briefing on Iraq policy in the Capitol, Murtha confidently replied, “All the information I get, it comes from the commanders, it comes from people who know what they’re talking about.” Although Murtha said that he had not read any investigative reports by the military on the incident, he stressed, “It’s much worse than reported in Time magazine.”
Murtha, a Pennsylvania Democrat, is being sued by one of the accused Marines for libel. He had told The Philadelphia Inquirer that Gen. Michael Hagee had given him the information on which he based his charge that Marines killed innocent civilians.
But a spokesman for the Marine Corps said Hagee briefed Murtha on May 24 about Haditha. Murtha had made comments on the case as early as May 17. On May 17, for example, he said at a news conference, “Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them and they killed innocent civilians in cold blood.”
What's more is that Gen. Hagee didn't brief Murtha until a week after he'd made his accusations.
The charges have been dropped against Capt. McConnell, Capt. Stone, Sgt. de la Cruz, LCpl Tatum and LCpl. Sharratt. Lt. Grayson was found not guilty. SSgt. Frank Wuterich is the only man left of the 8 Haditha Marines that hasn't been acquitted or had his charges dropped.
It's time that the military end this persecution of SSgt. Wuterich. The murder charges have been dropped against the Marines fighting in the firefight. The so-called cover-up has now been dealt with. I've said from the start that there wasn't a cover-up despite what Murtha said. Now that's an official finding of fact.
It's also time for the gutless wonder from Johnstown to publicly apologize for his political anti-military accusations. Finally, it's time for Murtha to retire from the House. He's exceptionally corrupt in addition to his willing to throw the Haditha Marines under the bus.
Cross-Posted at LFR.